Before I start with this review, I would like to ask a question. What do you love most about gaming? For me, it’s the sheer variation in how to play. You can dip in and out whilst on the bus, or lose a whole weekend in the pursuit of adventure.
One such game that I sank hours into when I was younger was R-Type. I found the combination of frantic action and weird and wonderful enemies, each who had their own behaviours, truly irresistible. It was easy to pick up and play, but just as easy to lose hours trying to conquer this hard-as-nails shooter. It’s for this reason that FullBlast immediately grabbed my attention. So, get those opposable thumbs ready, because we’ve got a lot of aliens to blast.
The set-up is simple. Aliens have invaded and you’re here to blast every last one into oblivion. The characters are basic, even lazy, as is the dialogue. It’s a shame that the start and end of each level, or “area”, contains pretty much exactly the same lines from the characters. It wouldn’t have taken much to mix things up here. However, I guess it’s all about the action with a game such as this, so I’ll try not to get too hung up.
The controls are also simple, as you’d expect. This is a vertically scrolling shooter, playing exactly as you would expect. Move with the left thumbstick, shoot with the right trigger and drop bombs with the left. You can also use A and B to fire your weapons if you prefer.
There are borders down each side of the screen, reminiscent of the original arcade style. It’s a nice touch. Each area follows on directly from the last; there are no checkpoints here. You will unlock areas as you complete them however, meaning you can choose which one to replay from the menu screen if you so wish. And visually, the game looks okay, if a little bland, but the music that accompanies it will grate after a while. You don’t even get a break from the killer riffs during the boss fights, bar a couple.
The enemies which swarm your screen are more than reminiscent of the bug-like baddies in Galaga and Space Invaders; much more could have been done with their design to differentiate them in this reviewer’s humble opinion. You’ll encounter a few new ones as you play through FullBlast, but they’re all typical of the genre, and to be honest, pretty generic. Some will take more than one hit to destroy, and their firing and movement patterns will vary in the usual ways. There’s nothing here you haven’t seen before.
And this is where the game starts to struggle. You have a more than generous lifebar, especially compared to what you normally get in this type of game. You also have lives, but they are almost pointless, as you’ll never lose one thanks to that health bar. If you do, however, you’ll go back to having to use some very basic weaponry, which can make things a little more challenging. You also have bombs at your disposal, which are pretty satisfying to use, blanketing the whole screen in flames and destroying almost anything in their path. The strange thing is, after you use your first one, which is given to you, you’ll be waiting a long time before you get your hands on another. In fact, I only got one more in my playthrough of the entire game.
On the subject of drops, it’s worth keeping an eye out for weapon upgrades, score multipliers, extra lives and more which enemies will leave behind at random. You will also pick up a computer controlled rocket launcher upgrade early on which makes things easier, possibly too easy. Pickups aren’t always good however…
I’ve only danced around the game’s main issue up to now, but here it is. It’s far too easy. I played it through on normal and lost one life throughout the whole game until the last Boss fight, right at the end. This was a little more challenging and took a couple more lives from me. It’s a shame that FullBlast ups the ante only at the very end, as by then, it’s very much too little too late. I went back afterwards and played through some levels on hard, the highest difficulty, and things were certainly more challenging, but nothing that would trouble gamers even of moderate ability. Your ridiculous lifebar will make sure of that.
Each area lasts for a decent amount of time, however due to the monotonous nature of the level design, this works against the game. Things change slightly when the action moves to a forest and then to a group of glaciers, but the change of scenery is exactly just that. Rather disappointingly the enemies remain almost exactly the same throughout all the areas. In addition, boss battles are mostly pretty generic affairs, bar a couple which are a bit more complex, teasing what the game needs more of.
What is strange, and I’m still undecided if it’s a good or bad thing, is that FullBlast will chuck loads of Gamerscore your way for doing nothing special – just for simply playing through the game. I found myself nailing all 13 achievements in less than an hour, earning 1000 Gamerscore. You will too. This echoes the overall difficulty issue. It’s all too easy.
As well as going solo, you can play with a friend locally and view personal and online leaderboards. But what is rather odd are the missions. They are similar to achievements but you can’t view how to unlock each one, only guess what you need to do. If you haven’t unlocked all the missions after you have played through the game, as you will have all the Gamerscore through the Xbox achievements system, there is zero incentive to unlock them. The fact that they exist at all is pretty pointless.
All that leaves me to say that FullBlast is an average scrolling shooter that will provide enjoyment for an hour or two. The main problem is that it is far too easy, and its ideas are consistently being stretched too thin. It doesn’t do anything new or different, and what it does do doesn’t quite add up to the full package.